The Washington Post

House hearing will examine decisions behind sequester cuts


Republicans on Tuesday plan to grill agency officials over statements the Obama administration has made about the impacts of the government-wide spending cuts that took effect on March 1.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has called on top executives from the Commerce Department, the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Communications Commission to testify about their decisions over spending cuts and furloughs.

The administration has talked frequently about potential impacts of the sequester, also handing out furlough notices, releasing illegal immigrants from custody and halting White House tours as part of its efforts to meet cost-saving targets.

But some agencies have told the House committee that they’re not ready to discuss their decisions or the impacts of the cuts at this point.

The Senate is considering a short-term spending resolution that could provide the administration with greater control over how agencies meet their reduction targets, possibly altering the calculus for cost-saving measures within some departments.

Nonetheless, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank mentioned specific cuts in a February letter to the to the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee. She said the sequester would require furloughs for up to 2,600 NOAA employees, delayed launchings for new weather satellites and a $15 million reduction in assistance to American exporters.

Republicans on the House committee plan to question the administration’s dire warnings and argue that agencies should trim waste and eliminate duplicative programs, according to opening remarks they prepared for the Tuesday hearing.

The administration may have greater flexibility to do just that depending upon how things turn out with the temporary spending plan that is working its way through Congress this week.


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Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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